A New Number One
“While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.” (Luke 24:51)
We American Christians have totally messed up our liturgical celebrations. Ask the vast majority of Christians what their favorite holiday is an invariably the answer will be “Christmas.” Easter may be a far, far second, and perhaps Halloween would take third and it isn’t really a Christian holiday at all. I would argue for a much different listing of important holidays.
My list would be, in order: Ascension, Resurrection, Pentecost, and then Christmas.
Christmas was the birth of the Messiah. It is the celebration of the divine becoming intimately human. It provides renewed hope after almost three hundred years of divine silence. It also has an incredible potential for celebration. You have presents, a God like “mascot” in Santa Claus and occurs in a time of year when we need a party, one of the shortest days of daylight of the year. The music is beautiful and the colors of the season are rich and beautiful. But it is the beginning toward something greater.
Pentecost was the birth of the Church and the extended gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Spirit continues to provide ongoing intimacy between God and God’s children. The red fire of Pentecost is beautiful and visually appealing, just visit Pinterest and type in “Pentecost” and see all the beautiful ways of expressing the holiday. Pentecost needs a cute mascot and perhaps a thematic gift exchange.
The resurrection that we celebrate on Easter morning is transformative, for it is the day we recognize the powerful joy of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus, who had power over sin and death and brought newness of life. Some of you may be surprised it isn’t my number one. There are a couple of reasons. First, Jesus already showed us a resurrection in the raising of Lazarus. Second, the second person of the Trinity returning to life was a cool move, but how does that influence Jesus’ divine future, or for us? Finally, the Easter Bunny is a far cry from Santa Claus. Easter baskets are nowhere close to presents under a tree. Easter hymns can’t hold a candle to Christmas Carols.
And Scott’s number one theological event/holiday? The Ascension! This is the day that Jesus ascends into heaven. Jesus shows that he is indeed the Son of the living God and that God is loving enough to want not only Jesus to return to God, but for all of us to return to God as well. The Ascension is less about going to heaven and more about being in the very presence of God. In human ascension, we are invited to live with God. To me, that knocks the theological ball out of the park!
I would like to start a campaign to lift up the Ascension (pun intended.) The Ascension needs a mascot cooler than Santa. Hymns more ready to make us cry. Presents that put us even further in debt than Christmas. The poor Ascension is the Rodney Dangerfield of holidays, “It gets no respect.” The Church calendar even puts the Ascension on a Thursday. No one wants to go to church on Thursday. That is Big Bang Theory night!
Joking aside, today visualize the Ascension. Thank God for not only calling Jesus home, but promising to bring us along as well. Spend some time considering just how much time and energy the Triune God has taken to pave the way for our Ascension. That is love. That is worth celebrating big-time!